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Tylertown, Mississippi welcomes Jena 6 supporters back to 1957

At approximately 1130 PM, September 19, 2007, my friends (Charles Reeves
and Anthony Payne) and I found ourselves on the side of the road outside
the town of Tylertown, Mississippi.

After riding for a short while behind the squad car that emerged from
the wooded roadside, he pulled behind us and promptly turned on his
lights and siren. There was no question that we were driving lawfully,
as we were driving on cruise control, five miles under the speed limit.
Ironically, we had chosen to do this to avoid being pulled over on the
notorious stretch of Mississippi road known as "Bloody 98". His first
question as he approached the car: Do you all have licenses? His second
question: So... Where are ya'll headed? After I responded that we were
headed to Vidalia (a town thirty miles from Jena, Louisiana where we had
hotel reservations), he continued to ask several questions regarding
Vidalia. Not one related to my registration, driving or a potential
traffic violation. But instead:

Officer 1: "So, what are you going to do in Vidalia?"

MTF: "I'm going to Comfort Suites in Vidalia."

Officer 1: "Is that it, just going to a hotel?", "There's nothing to
do in Vidalia, is that all you're going there for?", "You have any
friends or family there?"

MTF: (cutting him off) "I'm going to a hotel in Vidalia."

Officer 1: "So, really, Vidalia, you going anywhere else?", "Can you
step outside to the back of the car please"

The conversation continued at the back of the car. Fog lights blared in
my face as I became increasingly angry and antagonistic. My friends are
still in the car with fog lights beaming into the back of the car.
After several refused attempts to get me to answer something other than
"I'm going to a hotel in Vidalia", he moved to my vehicle.

Officer 1: "So, are you aware that my computer shows that your
tag is expired?"

MTF: "No it is not. I have the registration, decals and
you're welcome to run it. Do you mind telling me what the problem is?"

Officer 1: "Well, maybe my computer's wrong. But you were
swerving back there did you know that?"

MTF: "I don't believe that I was, but I can't say anything
about that. Do you want to tell me what the problem is?"

Officer 1: "Ok. Give me a minute. I'm just conducting my

He returned to his car and came back.

Officer 1: "Do you have any drugs or illegal items in the car?"

MTF: "No, I don't. I don't keep illegal items in my car.
I'm an attorney. I don't keep any illegal items on my
person or in my car. I have a bar card if you would like to see that as well"

Officer 1: "Really? What law school did you go to?

MTF: "Howard University School of Law"

Officer 1: "Do you mind if I search your car?"

MTF: "As a matter of fact I do. No you cannot."

At this time another squad car pulls up. Another two officers and a
young African-American male in street clothes hops out. He greets me:
"What's up" My response: SILENCE (In my mind, I'm saying F$%^ you and
what's up!)". The irony of that... The unknown "brother", forever known
as Travares, smooths me over with "What's up." as his "friends" proceed
to launch a full scale "investigation". There are now three officers,
and two people in plain clothes outside of two police cars. Apparently,
all here only to investigate the reason we were traveling to Vidalia.
Not a traffic violation, but why we were going to Vidalia.

I turn to the new officer...

MTF: "Look, your officer says my tag showed as expired (although it
was pitch black and my year decal is covered with an Omega Psi Phi frame
plate) and I was swerving. I have shown him my license, registration,
tag registration and insurance card. I am ready to take any test that
you have to give. But first, will you all please tell me what the
problem is, because I do not understand."

Officer 2: "Well, where are you guys headed?"

MTF: "Vidalia. Do you have a problem with me going to Vidalia?"

Officer 2: "Hold on. I'm just asking you some questions. Let me talk to
your friend. Could you please step to the back of the squad car please?"

He approaches my friend in the front passenger seat and asks him out of
the car. He takes him to the other side of the second squad car and
performs a search of his person. This officer went as far as to dig
into his pockets and around the inside of his waistband. He questions

Officer 2: "So you guys are going to Jena huh?"

AP: "I'm going to Vidalia."

Officer 2: "So, you're just going to Vidalia, when are you leaving?"

AP: "Tomorrow."

Officer 2: "So you're just going to stay there one night and then

AP: "Go home."

Officer 2: "You do know what's going on in Jena right?"

AP: "Yes. I do."

Officer 2: "So you're going to Vidalia, huh"

He then left to go and question the second passenger in the back seat.

Officer 2: "Put your hands on the headrest and don't move them! Where
are you headed?"

CR: "Vidalia."

Officer 2: "Where are you coming from?"

CR: "Mobile, Alabama"

Officer 2: "How old are you?"

CR: "32"

Officer two leaves the car.

Officer one returns to me as I'm standing at the back of the squad car.

MTF: "Do you want to tell me what the problem is now?"

Officer 1: "I'm going to ask you again, so you don't want me to
search your car."

MTF: "No."

Officer 1: "I'm just curious to know why you won't let me search
your car."

MTF: "Because you have neither reasonable suspicion nor
probable cause to conduct a search on my car. No, you cannot."

Officer 1: "You have a nice day."

Anthony returned to the car shortly after. We left, and were officially
welcomed to the year 1957... For thirty minutes on the side of that
rode, we were part of something bigger than a random stop. We were part
of the reason that buildings burned in this country. We were a part of
a bigger struggle. We arrived in Jena the next day, as planned. No
thanks to the law officers of Tylertown, Mississippi. Imagine how many
others faced similar circumstances while traveling on the 20th of
September. Then consider how many go through similar experiences daily.

An attorney, a finance collections manager and a TV productions manager
were on the side of a dark Mississippi road in the dead of night
surrounded by five suspicious Mississippi law enforcement officers and
the "brother" who will forever be known as "Travares the Traitor".
There were weapons shown, shaky hands, and the ominous smell of chewing
tobacco. There were fog lights glaring. Our only crime: Being
suspected of driving to participate in a demonstration that has become
one of the purest forms of American "free speech". Apparently, it's not
free for all. We had nearly a hundred years of experience and life
experience to guide them through what could have been another tragic
news story. If one of our youth was in that same predicament, would the
outcome have been the same? You be the judge? Is there still work to
be done? Maybe it was all just a coincidence.

Take note. Take heed. When appropriate... Take action. It is real.
God bless everyone who is reading this. This letter was not written in
hate or anger, but in concern. I can protect myself, what about those
who can't?

Peace. Cause we really need it


Stewart Scott



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